If Pitt is going to win, the Panthers need to contain Randall Cobb (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I've got to admit, my interest in this game is low. Real low. But, it will still be nice to see the team take the field one more time this season.
So how's this one going to turn out? Can Pitt end the season on a high note?
Well, it may be hard to envision Pitt winning this game with all that's gone on in the past month. But the fact is that the Panthers have a built-in advantage with Kentucky starting quarterback Mike Hartline suspended. Hartline threw for 3,000+ yards and 23 touchdowns this season and very well could be the reason the Wildcats lose this game. What's more is that without Hartline, Kentucky's best player, WR/KR/RB/QB/OF/1B/Goalie Randall Cobb may be a bit more limited in his effectiveness as a receiver.
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips knew he had to suspend Hartline after disorderly conduct and public intoxication charges:
"Mike has had a good record here conduct-wise and I regret that this has happened but it did," Phillips said. "... We have clear expectations of how we want our players to act, how we want them to behave.
"It is tough on me because of how I feel about Mike and what he has done for this program, but that is something that you have to do as a head coach. You have to make a decision and our expectations are clear-cut. We have to stick with them."
Kentucky's top 25 passing and scoring offense will be a bit different to say the least. But Pitt will still need to keep an eye on do-everything Randall Cobb, who can line up in the backfield as a running back or under center and take a few snaps as QB. Cobb is also a dangerous return man ... something that always strikes fear in the heart of Pitt fans. And this is still a Kentucky offense that scored more than 30 points eight times this year.
The key for Pitt on offense, as always, will be the ability to run the ball. Pitt is undefeated this season (5-0) when rushing for more than 150 yards. ESPN's SEC blogger Chris Low agrees.
Look, there's a lot of reasons not to watch this game and interest is at an all-time low. And the fact is that it probably does matter a bit more to Kentucky. The Wildcats are trying to build a program. Pitt is rebuilding. They may have been hoping for a bit more than this bowl, but they didn't have realistic BCS bowl aspirations like Pitt did. The Lexington Herald-Leader couldn't even identify a good Pitt win this year.
Maybe you're heading to the basketball game against Marquette. Maybe you're taking Christmas decorations down to avoid being the last person on your street to do so. Maybe you're watching paint dry. But the fact is, there are reasons to watch.
It's probably your last chance to see Dion Lewis in a Pitt uniform.
Even more probable that Jon Baldwin will play his last game as a Panther.
Maybe even your last chance to see Henry Hynoski in a Pitt uniform.
Tune in to see NFL-talent Randall Cobb. Heck, it might be the last time he's in college, too.
It's the last time you'll see Pitt line up in a regular season game for several months.
And guess what - it's still a Pitt football game. So get your BBVA Compass bowl game shirts now ... or wait a week when they're likely half off.
So who wins this one? ESPN Big East blogger Brian Bennett says Kentucky ... and he doesn't think it will be that close. I'm actually going the other way. The team may be down, but I'm a big believer in the fact that once you put the pads on, all else is practically forgotten. You can't be halfway involved in a football game or you'll get your teeth kicked in. Pitt has more talent and I think we'll see that on Saturday.
Pitt 34, Kentucky 24